What Your Patients Should Know About Melanoma Risks, Prevention, Detection
Although melanoma accounts for only 1 percent of all skin cancers, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 76,380 new melanomas will be diagnosed in 2016, and more than 10,000 persons will die of the disease.
As you know, skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. Did you also know that:
- Melanoma incidence has risen for 30 years
- Melanoma is 20 times more common in whites than African-Americans
- The lifetime risk of melanoma is about 2.4 percent (1 in 40) for whites; .1 percent (1 in 1,000) for blacks and .5 (1 in 200 for Hispanics)
- Risk increases with age; the average age at finding is 62
- Melanoma is the most common cancer in young adults, especially young women
- Survival rates vary by age, stage and race
These are all good reasons to remind your patients – especially as summertime activities outdoor increase – that prevention and early detection are their best bets for avoiding melanoma, as well as other skin cancers.
For prevention, the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer recommends:
- Avoiding use of indoor tanning beds and booths
- Using sunscreen with SPF of at least 15 and that protects against both UVA and UVB rays
- Wearing sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB rays
- Seeking shaded areas
- Wearing hats and clothing that covers arms and legs
For early detection, because melanoma can arise even when preventive measure are taken, the American Cancer Society recommends:
- Knowing the signs and symptoms – patients should be alert to moles that fit the ABCDE rules:
- A – Asymmetry; one half does not match the other
- B – Border; the edges are irregular
- C – Color; not the same across a spot, with shades of brown, black, and sometimes pink, red, white, or blue
- D – Diameter; spots larger than ¼ inch (the size of a pencil eraser)
- E – Evolving; the mole or spot changes in size, shape, or color
- Skin self-exam – patients should be familiar with their own pattern of moles, blemishes, freckles and other marks so they notice changes or new spots, keeping ABCDE rules in mind.
- Skin exam by a healthcare professional – patients should be advised to tell you about any changes, because not all melanomas fit the ABCDE rules.
- Referral to a dermatologist – because it is sometimes difficult to identify a melanoma by sight alone, a specialist may be needed to employ dermatoscopy, and in some cases, take a biopsy for laboratory testing by a pathologist.